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Queensway:  Pre-Public Inquiry Mk 2

Queensway Planning Inquiry Mk2In 'Free Ride for Kensington' we reported that Fylde's Development Management (Planning) Committee was being advised not to maintain an objection to the reconvened appeal on Kensington's Queensway housing scheme.

When it came to the meeting however, the Development Management Committee had other ideas.

(As did many local residents who were incensed that the Council was being asked to consider 'throwing in the towel'.)

We saw a Fylde spokesman tell the Gazette that "Fylde was still a member run authority" - and on this occasion it's a good job they are.

The Committee decided without a single dissenting voice to continue to oppose Kensington's application at the re-opened inquiry.

Their main concerns were

  • Connectivity the plan conflicts with national advice on integrating new housing areas and the design is unsatisfactory due to the lack of a vehicular access from the south west
  • The proposal conflicts with Fylde Borough Local Plan policies on protecting countryside and limiting the extent of development and these policies now carry much more importance as the Localism Bill concludes its Parliamentary Journey (It only has the final Report stage and Royal Assent to go, all the committee work is completed). After Royal Assent (Probably in November) it will become law and the regional strategies with their ridiculous housing numbers will be abolished.
  • The scale of the development is inappropriate and the proposal would reduce the options available to the Council in the new local plan it is preparing.
  • The development represents inappropriate development in the Green Belt and is contrary to some of Fylde's other planning policies
  • The contribution that it would make to housing need in the borough and the funding of the M55- Heyhouses Link Road don't outweigh the substantial harm that would be caused to the Green Belt.

Votes for the resolution (15): Councillors Aitken, Eastham, Armit, Craig-Wilson, Brickles, Collins, Duffy, Fiddler, Goodrich, Hardy, Nulty, Oades, Pounder, Redcliffe and Speak

Votes against the resolution (0):

Abstentions (0): (except that Councillor Willder had to leave the meeting before the vote was taken).

So we say 'Well Done!' to those Councillors.

It was timely too, because today was the date of the Pre Inquiry Meeting that prepared the ground for the full Second Public Inquiry on this matter that will be held in January 2012, (starting on Tuesday 10th Jan)

We'll get to a report on that meeting in just a minute, but before we do there is another piece of excellent news for local people.

Readers might remember that in Ballam Road Mk2  we reported on the legal and planning policy thrust and parry that was part of the Ballam Road Second Inquiry.

The focus there was chiefly on the importance of the Regional Strategy, and its abolition.

For developer Mr Whitehead, ace Barrister Roger Lancaster said at the time: "only limited weight could be placed on the Government's intention to revoke Regional Strategies and," (We thought, he sounded rather prematurely triumphal in the next bit) "in any event, each proposed abolition/revocation would have to be subject to a separate Strategic Environmental Assessment before revocation could take place."

(The implication being that the SEA's would take ages to do, and they would delay the Localism Bill being implemented. It might even show that it was a bad idea to revoke the strategies anyway).

Well, just as St Eric stuck two fingers up at the Cala Homes appeal a couple of weeks ago, and said something which we thought resembled "off" as the second word - when he refused their 230 acre, 2,000 house appeal at Barton Farm near Winchester (What on earth did Cala expect after they took him to court and caused no end of hassle - not to mention the additional expense for UK taxpayers), Our very own the Rt Hon Saint Eric Pickles, has again stuck another one on the developers.

He's already sneaked off and done the Strategic Environmental Assessments for every region of the UK - as a prelude to the Localism Bill being given Royal Assent next month.

Yes really!

It's a brilliant move on his part.

Each SEA is published today and is now out to public consultation - you can follow this link to see the list of all SEA's and this link for the North West one.

We're not very well up on the ecological do's  and don'ts within them but a few of our readers are well clued up on them and they tell us that the north west one suggests the abolition of the regional strategy will actually improve things for wildlife in this area.

Whoopee!

The SEA's are now open for consultation until January, and we understand the intention is to revoke the Regional Strategy in spring.

So by the time January comes, the weight that Kensington can place on the Regional Strategy to support it's arguments for building will be approaching zilch, zero, nil points.

And at the same time, the Localism Bill will be law, and that places even greater weight and importance on Fylde's existing publicly tested and supported Local Plan.

And if that was not enough, Government is moving ahead with plans further protect the Green Belt.

They said today "The process of returning decision-making powers on housing and planning to local communities moved up a gear with the publication today of environmental assessments of the revocation of each Plan for consultation. The reports make it clear that revoking Regional Plans will mean there is less top down pressure on communities to review Green Belt. Subject to Royal Assent of the Bill and the environmental assessments, the final abolition of each individual Regional Plan will be commenced after the assessment process has been completed."

Happy bunnies all round - well, that is except for the landbanking casino-developers who have bet their stake of 5,000 will turn into 5m when the wheel stops spinning.

But that was before St Eric took over the Casino.

We think Kensington would be well advised to drop the Queensway proposal and save themselves yet more time and expense.

But they showed no sign of doing so this morning in the Pre Inquiry Meeting held in 'The Studio' a name now given to the part of Lowther Pavilion (on the landward side) that can be closed off with moveable screens.

Here, the Planning Inspectorate's Philip Asquith MA(Hons) MRTPI conducted what our Quaker friends might have styled a 'preparatory meeting'. It set the scope and arrangements for the Public Inquiry starting on 10th Jan and lasting for eight days or thereabouts.

He went through the ground rules - he didn't want people going over the arguments covered at the previous inquiry and so on.

First off we looked at who the expert witnesses would be. Kensington's Roger Lancaster said they had four witnesses, A planning expert, a highway expert, a landscape expert who would address greenbelt and agricultural land issues, and a drainage expert. They later added an ecological expert.

Lancashire County Council are also a main party this time (because of their road planning application to themselves) and their barrister Jonathan Easton (or maybe Easdon? there was no amplification in place) (who works from the same chambers as Roger Lancaster) would call someone from LCC Highways, someone from LCC Planning, a drainage expert, Frances Hesketh and Sarah Manchester from LCC for ecology, and possibly a landscape expert.

For Fylde BC, barrister Ruth Stockley (also from the same chambers as the other two) had been instructed by the Council for this pre-inquiry meeting, but she said they expected another barrister to represent Fylde at the Inquiry proper.

They would call Stephen Otterwell (?), a planning consultant and, sensibly, (we thought), she said they wanted to reserve the Council's position, because she expected there were changes to Kensington's plan that were about to be announced. She said Fylde didn't expect to call ecological or drainage experts.

Two members of the public said they hoped to speak at the Inquiry (but we quite expect there will be more folk turn up when the hearing starts).

There was mention of QED when Roger Lancaster said he understood that QED were not adopting the status of a Rule 6 Party at this inquiry, and would therefore not - as he understood it - be appearing at the Inquiry. He said this meant that unless the Inspector so directed, he (and each of the main parties) would not expect to provide QED with copies of the Inquiry documents.

He expressed the hope that this situation would not lead to - in effect - rabbits being pulled out of the hat by QED when the Inquiry opened.

We thought that with QED not taking part as a 'Rule 6' group, it would likely mean that more members of the public would want a say of their own at the Inquiry itself (because they would want to put their own views to the Inspector), but it remains to be seen what happens on the day.

Then came the 'Statements of Common Ground' discussion where the parties try to agree what they agree on - (so those aspects needn't form part of the Inquiry). This hope was, at best, rather 'woolly' and whilst desirable, we didn't think there was a lot of, shall we say, enthusiasm for reaching agreement.

Next was a discussion about the "Environmental Statements" and here came the biggest news

Roger Lancaster said the Queensway Masterplan was going to be amended "slightly"

Oh yes?

He spoke of a plan that we have not seen, saying that "Area 1" will remain 'residential' but "Area 2" will not be shown as being developed, and the plan will also have existing and proposed bridleways shown on it.

He also said that the Farmland Conservation Area might have a name change and that the junction of the T6 (Cropper Manor to Cypress Point) and T5 (T6 to Kilnhouse Lane) roads would be shown as the final position because the LCC road proposal is now known.

He went on to say that since it had been found by LCC that the T6 road needed a floodzone compensation area (to accommodate the water in the existing floodzone that the T6 road will displace), Kensington's T5 road (which runs from the new T6 road to Kilnhouse Lane), will now also need its own floodzone compensation area.

But not to worry - because they'd had a look at it, and all the water could now be accommodated on two of the same areas that LCC are planning to use to put the water from the T6 road.

LCC then went on to say that they'd had another look at it as well, and one of the places they'd proposed to put the new floodzone was actually under some of the houses that Kensington were planning to build, so they'd moved that floodzone onto the other two areas as well.

Sounds to us like there's going to have to be a bl**dy great hole dug to accommodate all this water.

But the worst of it is that when Lytham Moss floods, it's already full to the ground surface and overflowing with groundwater (and that doesn't count as 'flooding' so far as planning policy is concerned - even if it is just as wet), so the hole in which they're going to put the water is already going to be full of water.

Honestly!  you couldn't make it up.

The changes to the plan also impact significantly on, and will change, the published Environmental Statement that was used last time as well, so that will need a new one doing and that will have to be advertised and consulted on too.

So in reality, what we're going to see is a new plan that isn't either the application that Fylde was asked to consider, or the plan that the first Public Inquiry looked at, or the plan that St Eric refused.

So although this Inquiry is only supposed to look at what has changed since the November 2009 Inquiry, in reality, its going to look at a new plan.

The plan is due out by the end of next week, and the changed / new Environmental Statement is due to be advertised week commencing 7th November.

We did also hear the LCC say that they didn't think the new Floodzone area would impact on the Farmland Conservation Area much, but it would impact on the proposed Public Open Space

From memory, we think that also had the football pitches for the school site on it, and at the time we said the previous plans would mean the school ought to consider dropping football and taking up water polo

But now, with the extra water from two or three other locations being added in, they might want to make that scuba diving.

And our friend and wag from the first public meeting that QED held - who said that whilst he appreciated the need for some housing, he "didn't want his kids to have to be brought up a Mermaids" looks like he's going to be in trouble.

There are 8 days allowed for the Inquiry. It will start at 9:30 on 10th January 2012 and they don't do Mondays, and Fridays are usually half days (looks like the austerity measures haven't bitten at the Planning Inspectorate yet).

We suspect Fylde ought to be arguing on more fronts - but that will probably depend what the new plans say.

We'll bring readers more on this important matter as we get it.

Dated:   21 October 2011


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